When Mauricio Sarri made a late entrance into Stamford Bridge last summer, it was in tow with his midfield brain from Napoli, Jorge Luiz Frello Filho – Jorginho – for a princely £57 million.
After 20 matches in the English Premier League and 1,737 minutes, the Brazilian turned Italian had accomplished 1,896 passes – an average of about one pass per minute: ludicrous stuff.
For all of his passing abilities, Chelsea lead the passing stats but are fourth on the league table, 10 points behind Liverpool, having drawn blanks in their last two home matches against Leicester City and Southampton.
Many Chelsea fans are then asking why all these passes when they are not leading to goals.
Is Jorginho the primary cause of Chelsea’s dour form, or who should we hold solely responsible?
Flashback to when Chelsea had to trump Manchester City for the acquisition of Jorginho, most Chelsea fans expected they were getting a playmaker – an assists’ provider ala Cesc Fabregas owing to the player’s monstrous passing stats.
However, six months after, Jorginho is gradually becoming the scapegoat for the team’s recent struggles.
In the aftermath of Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Spurs at Wembley, there were calls for Sarri to revert to type and redeploy N’Golo Kante to his more favoured defensive midfield position.
The Italian coach, however, in his post-match interview insisted that although the entire team had a bad game, it was unfair to single out Jorginho for the loss.
This is, thus, an attempt to dissect Jorginho’s role at Napoli where he flourished and in the present Chelsea team, and the possible causes of Chelsea’s failings.
I must reveal a Chelsea fan, Precious Omusuwe, really helped with background material and research.
Jorginho’s characteristics according to whoscored.com:
• Through balls
• Aerial duels
Style of play
• Likes to play short passes
• Likes to shoot from distance
• Likes to do layoffs
• Does not dive into tackles [Reality begs this stat as the midfielder can be said to be lucky not to have two red cards against his name already this season]
These traits ordinarily imply that Jorginho is a limited player when you consider he plays primarily at the base of the midfield as the anchorman. However, he is not the regular defensive midfielder in the mould of Nemanja Matic or Kante neither is he a central (carousel) midfielder like Toni Kroos or Ivan Rakitic.
This makes one wonder why Pep Guardiola felt hard done when Chelsea gazumped City to the Italian’s signature.
Jorginho is at his best when deployed tactically as a ‘regista’.
The term is an Italian word, which means ‘Director’. It refers to the one who dictates the offensive phase of the team’s play. He is not the box-to-box player, the one who runs around the pitch covering every blade of grass but rather he sits deep, often between the center-backs and dictates the tempo of the game from deep.
More often than not, registas spend more time in their positions and leave the burden of goal-scoring to their teammates although they sometimes pop up with scorchers from a distance.
A ball-winning midfielder on the right and a central attacking midfielder on the left normally flanks a regista.
Jorginho At Napoli
Jorginho was flanked by the ageless Marek Hamsik as the central attacking midfielder on the left and Allan as the ball-winning midfielder on the right.
In the offensive phase of the game, he would drop in between Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol when Pepe Reina (the goalkeeper) has the ball.
Jorginho dropping deep would pull opposition players out of position towards him and with his one-touch passing, he beats the press and allows his team create an overload on the opposition. This system thrives on constant movement of the Napoli players and aggressive pressing from the front in the defensive phase thereby keeping the backline under minimal pressure.
Jorginho At Chelsea
Jorginho is flanked by Kante as the ball-winning midfielder and Mateo Kovacic or Ross Barkley as the central attacking midfielder.
In the offensive phase of the game, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger push wide to allow Jorginho drop deep in between them.
Unlike at Napoli, the Chelsea players are quite static and as such the passing triangles that form the core of ‘Sarriball’ is non-existent. This non-movement off the players is the reason Jorginho’s limitations as a player is being exposed in the Premier League.
Unfortunately, this trait cannot be coached out of Hazard or Willian at this stage in their respective careers but the Brazilian can be dropped in favour of the more direct Pedro.
Solving The Puzzle
‘Sarriball’ thrives on a quick interchange of play but the current Chelsea squad consists of more ball huggers in Eden Hazard, Kovacic, and Willian on the offensive phase alone.
In the midfield, Kovacic is capable of handling the defensive phase. However in the offensive phase where he is expected to transform into a sort of shadow striker he continues to fail.
Ruben Loftus Cheek could do a job replacing the Croatian if he improves his own pressing game. Kante has grown into his role and needs no replacing. It does not need to be emphasised that Chelsea desperately need a striker.
In defence, Alonso needs replacing ASAP. The Spaniard is just too slow to create an overload and is proving really ponderous in tackling. The solution can be sourced from within their ranks in Emerson Palmieri and Jay Dasilva.
Jorginho was rated as Chelsea’s best player in the win over Crystal Palace and the drab draw against Southampton on whoscored.com with one shot, 83 per cent pass success rate, four dribbles, one successful aerial duel, and four successful tackles.
What can Chelsea and Sarri do in January? Because of the investment on the ground, players just have to be sold to make way for newer ones, who are able to play in the way and manner the manager deems fit.
Jorginho is not going to change but the manager has a duty to get players around him that will let his better qualities shine through, that is if Chelsea are desirous of finishing the season in the top four.
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